As a Player: Atlantic City Regional, October 12 2013

Joe Frankino

10/24/2013 11:00:00 AM

For those of you expecting Black and White this week, my apologies. This is obviously not Black and White.

Earlier this year, I attended YCS San Diego, but I wasn't wearing my usual garb. I was among the mass of players that time around as I wanted to be among the first to experience Sealed Play at the premiere level. You can read my tournament report for that event here. I was expecting “As a Player” to be a one-off article, but while at the 2013 North American World Championship Qualifier, I made the decision that I wanted to play in the WCQ in 2014. And I knew then that this was going to be a long twelve months of preparation.

But first things first. You can't play in the WCQ unless you qualify. That's what Regional Qualifiers are for. And that's what I'll be talking about today!

October 2013: That's a lot of Regionals…
When the Judgment of the Light Regional Qualifier schedule was posted some months ago, I immediately tallied up how many events were going to be held within driving distance during the next three months. There were four, but strangely enough, they were all in the month of October, one during each Saturday. Suffice to say that October would be a busy month.

I know I wanted to play in at least one Regional this season. The choice, however, was pretty much made for me; I'd volunteered to judge at the Philadelphia Regional and would be Head Judging the Hartford one. The Frederick, Maryland Regional is a four hour drive away, which is doable but very tiring; I tried making that trip in 2008 for SJC Baltimore. I made the drive the morning of the event, went 1-3 drop then drove back that night. My level of exhaustion was higher than I anticipated; I started seeing things on the Long Island Expressway, like neon dinosaurs where road signs should've been. If there wasn't a fully awake passenger with me that I could talk to, I'm very certain I would've dozed off and crashed into something. Not an experience I'd like to go through again. Three hours is as long as I'm willing to drive one-way for a Regional, so Fredrick, Maryland is not an option.

That leaves only one choice now doesn't it? Atlantic City it is.

Pick A Deck, Joe
Going into the tournament I had four different decks that I could bring with me, felt comfortable enough playing, and that I believed could also do reasonably well at the Regional level: Inzektors, Dark World, Chaos Dragons and Mermails. I'd practiced with the first three strategies after September 1st, but the Mermail deck was one that I used pre-Lord of the Tachyon Galaxy and was very-much outclassed by Dragon Rulers; it was an outdated build that was specifically designed to beat the mirror match. The deck used Elemental Hero Ice Edge and Miracle Fusion to allow access to Elemental Hero Absolute Zero, which gets an ATK boost from all WATER monsters on the field; mine and the opponent's. And Ice Edge is searchable with Mermail Abysspike allowing a strategy most other Mermail players were unequipped to deal with, because getting rid of Absolute Zero meant having to invest in the field only to lose it. Dragon Rulers, however, don't care about losing their field; they simply get it back on their next turn and use Number 11: Big Eye to snatch Absolute Zero away.

So, given that Absolute Zero wasn't going to work (which pains me to say because I love that card so much), I decided to shift the focus of the deck.

By design, Dragon Rulers can be used not only with each other, but each individual Dragon Ruler fits very well in a deck dedicated to its Attribute. Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls in Mermails? Reuseable 2600 ATK Level 7 monster? Yes please!

 Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls
Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls70975
Set 2013 Collectible Tins Wave 1
Number CT10-EN001
Level 7
Type Effect Monster
Monster Dragon/Effect
Attribute WATER 
A / D 2600 / 2000
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

If this card is in your hand or Graveyard: You can banish a total of 2 WATER and/or Dragon-Type monsters from your hand and/or Graveyard, except this card; Special Summon this card. During your opponent's End Phase, if this card was Special Summoned: Return it to the hand. You can discard this card and 1 WATER monster to the Graveyard; send 1 monster from your Deck to the Graveyard. If this card is banished: You can add 1 WATER Dragon-Type monster from your Deck to your hand. You can only use 1 "Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls" effect per turn, and only once that turn.

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Dice Addiction Pro Limited - Moderately Played 1 $1.00
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SuperGamesInc Limited - Heavily Played 2 $1.99

What other Level 7 monsters can I put in here? Because Mermails are real good at Summoning Level 7 monsters. Well, we know of the usual suspects: Mermail Abyssmegalo, Mermail Abyssteus and Mermail Abyssleed. Can we fit in any other Level 7 Mermails? But there's only one more that doesn't see a lot of play.

Enter The Whale
Since Lord of the Tachyon Galaxy, Mermails got a few more tricks. The biggest one is a whale with a hammer too big to ignore: Mermail Mermail Abyssbalaen. Everyone I know writes off the whale as a joke since its Summon condition is high-risk high-reward; discarding four Mermails is hard, and in order to destroy the cards it targets, it needs to gain 500 ATK. That means if Mermail Abyssbalaen isn't on the field when its effect resolves, it can't gain 500 ATK and the targets won't be destroyed.

But when Mermail Abyssbalaen goes off, it's a big swing in momentum.

I decided to play a single Mermail Mermail Abyssbalaen. At worst, it's a generic Level 7 Mermail that pokes for damage and gets used as an Xyz Material. At best? The whale is in my opening hand with four other Mermails.

The Rest of the Monsters
Since I made the decision to run Mermail Abyssbalaen, I wondered a few things: in order to even consider using its effect, I'd need to run as many Mermails as possible. Is that viable?

It turns out the answer is “YES”.

In testing, thanks to all the Mermail Special Summon and search effects, all of the Mermails can toolbox each other out of the deck and graveyard. The only random factor is that there's no dedicated Mermail-related card that lets you search out the Level 7's. You need to draw into those or add them to your hand with other off-theme cards like Gold Sarcophagus.

So besides the usual Mermail suite of Mermail Abysslinde, Mermail Abysspike, Mermail Abyssgunde, I'm also running two Mermail Abyssdine because Special Summoning another Mermail from the graveyard is exceptionally good.

    Big Whale Mermails Joe Frankino    
Main Deck
Side Deck
3 Abyss Soldier
3 Atlantean Heavy Infantry
1 Dragon Ice
1 Mermail Abyssbalaen
2 Mermail Abyssdine
3 Mermail Abyssgunde
1 Mermail Abysshilde
1 Mermail Abyssleed
3 Mermail Abysslinde
2 Mermail Abyssmegalo
1 Mermail Abyssocea
3 Mermail Abysspike
3 Mermail Abyssteus
1 Mermail Abyssturge
1 Moulinglacia the Elemental Lord
3 Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls
Monsters [32]
3 Sacred Sword of Seven Stars
Spells [3]
3 Abyss-sphere
1 Abyss-squall
1 Return from the Different Dimension
1 Sixth Sense
Traps [6]
Deck Total [41]
3 Gemini Imps
2 Gozen Match
3 Heavy Slump
2 Malevolent Catastrophe
2 Royal Prison
3 Spell Canceller
Side Deck [15]


1 Abyss Dweller
1 Bahamut Shark
1 Gaia Dragon, the Thunder Charger
1 Leviair the Sea Dragon
1 Maestroke the Symphony Djinn
1 Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack
1 Mermail Abyssgaios (UTR)
1 Mermail Abysstrite
1 Number 11: Big Eye
1 Number 30: Acid Golem of Destruction
1 Number 7: Lucky Straight
1 Number 74: Master of Blades
1 Photon Strike Bounzer
1 Temtempo the Percussion Djinn
1 Wind-Up Zenmaines
Extra Deck [15]

Non-Mermail monsters are few and far between in my build, but they're worthwhile. You'll notice that I skipped out on Deep Sea Diva, Atlantean Dragoons and Atlantean Marksman. Don't get me wrong, those are good cards, but my Extra Deck's more about the better selection and variety of Xyz Monsters than performing a Synchro Summon. I passed up on Marksman because any threat against this deck is usually a face-up card: cutting Deep Sea Diva and Atlantean Marksman meant the one-of Atlantean Dragoon is now completely unsearchable and only has three possible selections anyway: two Mermail Abyssmegalo and Moulinglacia the Elemental Lord. Dragoons got shown the door. Instead, I maxed out on Abyss Soldier and Atlantean Heavy Infantry. Abyss Soldier is instant bounce for anything the opponent controls (and will trigger effects because the effect discards as a cost), and Heavy Infantry is super-needed in dealing with threats.

The other card I want to address here is Dragon Ice. It's here strictly as a “surprise” card. An opponent going off will think he's safe making a Crimson Blader against my field of no back rows. All of a sudden, I drop an Atlantean Heavy Infantry to activate Dragon Ice in my hand. Oops, I just destroyed Crimson Blader! And then later, when Dragon Ice is in the yard and the opponent knows it's coming, they'll have to be especially careful while Special Summoning because now any card in my hand with a discard-activated effect is live, meaning I can deal with threats and perform combos even during my opponent's turn. With a single Mermail Abyssgunde in my hand and a Dragon Ice in my graveyard, my empty field somehow becomes Dragon Ice, Mermail Abyssdine and Mermail Abysslinde, and all I had to do was let my opponent Special Summon once. Seems good.

The build Main Decks 32 monsters. The Spells and Traps are as barebones as you can get, but they're all very good. Sacred Sword of Seven Stars gives the Mermail deck draw power it doesn't usually have. Return from the Different Dimension is the new “I win” card, and with Tidals and Sacred Sword banishing things, I'd be silly not to run Return.

Oh, and Sixth Sense. ‘cause why not?

Game Day (Regional Player Edition)
I got to the convention center at around 9:00am and was met with a line of about 200 or so duelists. I picked up a decklist and a registration form and was able to completely fill out both before getting to the registration area. Usually, I'd fill out one of these online (using the super-convenient Card Database) and print it at home, but circumstances prevented me from doing so. I highly recommend using the Card Database for decklist management. The fact that it can automatically generate a perfectly valid decklist will save you all sorts of trouble later on.

Round 1 started at 11:30 with 364 players. Let's do this…

Round 1: Table 97 vs. Ankit Shah (Dragon Rulers)
… that's… a name I recognize. That means I'm in for a tough fight.

Game 1: Ankit opened with two copies of Swift Scarecrow and was able to stop both of my game pushes. His Sixth Sense missed and sent five or six monsters to the graveyard, including a couple Dragons and two Maxx “C”. He continued to do Dragon Ruler things, Summoned a Crimson Blader and controlled the board from there.

Game 2: I opened up with Tidal and Return from the Different Dimension. I made my Return play, and Ankit chained Sixth Sense calling five and six which missed.

 Mermail Abyssbalaen
Mermail Abyssbalaen68172
Set Lord of the Tachyon Galaxy
Number LTGY-EN083
Level 7
Type Effect Monster
Monster Aqua
Attribute WATER 
A / D 2500 / 2000
Rarity Ultra Rare
Card Text

You can discard 4 other "Mermail" monsters to the Graveyard; Special Summon this card from your hand. When you do: Target cards your opponent controls, up to the number of "Mermail" monsters in your Graveyard (if possible); this card gains 500 ATK, and if it does, destroy thos targets (if any). You can Tribute 1 other face-up Attack Position "Mermail" monster; this card gains the following effect this turn. // * At the start of the Damage Step, if this card battles a Defense Position monster. Destroy that monster.

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Kirwan's Game Store Unlimited - Lightly Played 1 $0.14
XtremeGames 1st Edition - Near Mint 3 $0.14
XtremeGames 1st Edition - Lightly Played 1 $0.14
XtremeGames Unlimited - Near Mint 3 $0.14
Kirwan's Game Store 1st Edition - Moderately Played 2 $0.15
Kirwan's Game Store Unlimited - Near Mint 1 $0.15
Kirwan's Game Store 1st Edition - Lightly Played 1 $0.16
GameTimeCC Unlimited - Near Mint 7 $0.19
ZeroG Cards Comics Unlimited - Lightly Played 2 $0.19
SuperGamesInc Unlimited - Lightly Played 1 $0.20

Game 3: We end up going into time, and Ankit used Return from the Different Dimension at 8000 Life Points, which I half-questioned the logic on being so close to time in the round. But thanks once again to Crimson Blader, I couldn't get going and the monsters he put on the field were enough to get me under 4000 when end of round procedures ended the game.

Not a great start, but Ankit's a very good player, so taking it to Game 3 was a consolation for me.


Round 2: Table 112 vs. Stephen Moore (Archfiends)
Truth be told, I never actually put together an Archfiend deck before, so I was eager to see what plays Stephen could pull off.

He opened up with Armageddon Knight, spending Archfiend Heiress to the graveyard, letting him get Archfiend Emperor, the First Lord of Horror to his hand! Not bad! On his next turn, he summoned the Emperor and activated Archfiend General's effect to search out Pandemonium and activated it. He attacked for 1500, then in his End Phase, Archfiend Emperor destroyed itself which triggered Pandemonium, letting him get another Archfiend to his hand!

Unfortunately for Stephen, there was not much follow-up after that. I was able to Summon Wind-Up Zenmaines to defend my Life Points long enough to clear out threats with Abyss Soldier and put more Mermails on the field than he could deal with. Game 2 went in similar fashion.


Round 3: Table 73 vs. Timothy Dreher (Karakuri)
I'll remember this match for a long time.

I won Game 1 with a field of two Mermail Abyssmegalo, a Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls and Mermail Abysspike. Timothy hit me once for 1300 LP, but I didn't record what the attacker was. All I knew was that I needed to end the game as quickly as possible against a deck like this.

Game 2… oh my gosh.

Timothy went first, doing Karakuri things. I was down to 4700 LP and his field was Stardust Dragon, two Karakuri Steel Shogun mdl 00X "Bureido" and a Karakuri Shogun mdl 00 "Burei" with two face-down backrows. On my turn, I Summoned Abyss Soldier to which he auto-flipped Fiendish Chain. I discarded a card for Abyss Soldier anyway to load up the graveyard. I activated my in-grave Tidal to banishing two cards. I flipped Return from the Different Dimension, Special Summoning another Tidal, Mermail Abyssmegalo, and one other thing I forgot but wasn't relevant. My main dilemma was that Karakuri Steel Shogun mdl 00X "Bureido" has 2800 ATK and Mermail Abyssgaios only ties it. I couldn't Summon any monster with this setup that could gain control of the field.

Except one.

Number 7: Lucky Straight.

My exact words were “Go big or go home.” I Xyz Summoned Number 7: Lucky Straight, activated its effect, and my first roll was a 6. My second roll was a 1.

It's important to know that Timothy had no cards in hand. And now, thanks to Number 7: Lucky Straight, he had no cards on his field either.

Oh, and at some point in this match, I Sixth Sense'd to draw four cards.

My name is actually Joey Wheeler.


Round 4: Table 79 vs. Esteban Garcia (Hunders)
Esteban opened with almost nothing but spells and traps. His second turn consisted of a Cardcar D which presumably got more spells and traps. I summoned Mermail Abyssdine and Mermail Abysslinde to take advantage of Esteban's poor hand and was able to win Game 1 without taking any damage.

In Game 2, Esteban's deck finally woke up, allowing him to play a Pahunder into a Vylon Tuner and Synchro Summon Crimson Blader. Next turn, I dropped Abyss Soldier to deal with Crimson Blader. Lucky for me, Hunders can't simply do the same tricks again turn after turn like Dragon Rulers can. Abyss Soldier ended up staying on the field for the rest of the game, since the rest of Esteban's hand was seemingly unplayable.

It's unfortunate when matches are one-sided like this. I actually like to see lesser-played strategies come together and make things interesting!


Round 5: Table 16 vs. Phillip Pena (Dragon Rulers)
Sadly, I don't remember too much from this game and can't recall specific events from my Life Point notes. I'll just transcribe what I have down and let you guys figure it out.

Me: 8000
7000 (Stardust Dragon > Mermail Abysslinde)
6000 (Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls > Mermail Abysspike)
3500 (Stardust Dragon)

Phillip: 8000
6500 (Mermail Abysslinde)
3250 (Return from the Different Dimension)
3050 (which is written as “AB > Blaster” in my notes)

… OH! This was the game that I was able to activate and resolve Mermail Mermail Abyssbalaen Special Summon effect! Phillip chained Maxx “C” to Mermail Mermail Abyssbalaen's effect so I didn't use any of the optional effects of the Mermails I discarded (Abyssdine and Abyssgunde), but I did force my opponent into using Return on my turn, which in hindsight was only marginally better than him using it on his own turn. Didn't matter though since simply resolving Return from the Different Dimension allowed Phillip more search effects and swung momentum back to him anyway.

Game 2 seemed short…

Me: 8000
4000 (Return)

Phillip: 8000
6200 (Abyss Soldier)
4600 (Mermail Abysspike)
0 (scoop)

In Game 3, it seemed like it was more back and forth since I got Phillip down to 3000 LP, but it was still a loss.


Round 6: Table 78 vs. Luke Lograno (Constellars)
Game 1 was close. He Summoned Number 61: Volcasaurus and took out a Mermail Abyssleed with it (ouch…) but I was able to come back by Summoning Tidal, ramming Mermail Abysslinde into Volcasaurus to get a Mermail Abyssmegalo, attacked with both and Xyz Summoned Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack to maintain a stable field. He couldn't deal with Dracossack or Tidal in the next turn. For funsies, I used the Mecha Phantom Beast Tokens to Tribute Summon Mermail Mermail Abyssbalaen who I made sure got the winning hit.

Game 2… I sided in Malevolent Catastrophe which resolved and destroyed Luke's face-up Soul Drain and face-down Macro Cosmos and Bottomless Trap Hole, while also destroying my face-up Abyss-sphere. In Main Phase 2, Luke activated Dimensional Fissure. Of course. I had my Tidal poke at his Life Points but I ran out of monsters to banish for Tidal before Luke came back with Brotherhood of the Fire Fist – Bear and Constellar Kaus.

 Sacred Sword of Seven Stars
Sacred Sword of Seven Stars68197
Set Lord of the Tachyon Galaxy
Number LTGY-EN066
Type Spell Card
Attribute SPELL 
Rarity Super Rare
Card Text

Banish 1 Level 7 monster from your hand or face-up from your side of the field: draw 2 cards. You can only activate 1 "Sacred Sword of Seven Stars" per turn.

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KunkDaddyCards Unlimited - Near Mint 1 $0.98
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Game Goblins FoW Unlimited - Lightly Played 1 $1.22
dragonspentrading Unlimited - Near Mint 1 $1.25
CCG Hobbies 1st Edition - Near Mint 1 $1.25

Game 3… I made an executive decision to side in Spell Canceller this game. I figured cutting Luke off from his Fire Formation – Tenki's was an acceptable play to make. Truth be told, it actually put in work. Luke needed to make a Shark Fortress to get rid of it. I then Xyz Summoned Number 30: Acid Golem of Destruction to attack over Shark Fortress. We went into time where I used Return from the Different Dimension to setup another Acid Golem Summon (I assume Compulsory Evacuation Device was played at some point to make that possible?).


Round 7: Table 39 vs. Daniel Shloyda (Blackwings)
Looking at my side of my Life Point notes, I ate a Blackwing - Sirocco the Dawn attack over Abyss Solider in Game 1… and that was the only damage I took.


Round 8: Table 23 vs. Giang Nguyen (Spellbooks)
Game 1: Giang was able to Temperance of Prophecy into World of Prophecy, and I didn't draw any answers.

Game 2: My side deck was ready for this! In go the Spell Cancellers! In go the Gozen Matches! Excellent!

My opening hand: Sacred Sword of Seven Stars, Dragon Ice, Mermail Abyssgunde, Atlantean Heavy Infantry, two Abyss-sphere. What.

The marginally playable parts of this hand, the two Abyss-spheres, got Mystical Space Typhoon'd and Spellbook of Fate'd.


And now it's make or break time… if I win in Round 9, I might make Top 48 and get my invite? Let's see…

Round 9: Table 28 vs. Aaron Perez (Dragon Rulers)
The match itself was a real grind game. Aaron, playing Dragon Rulers, Summoned Crimson Blader. He was able to keep monsters off my field preventing me from getting any momentum going.

We went into time in Game 2. He opened poorly and wasn't able to load up the graveyard with dragons. I had Return and pushed for game.


A note about that last match: tournament veterans may have noticed that a draw in the last match virtually guarantees that neither myself nor Aaron would be placed high enough to get top 48. One of us needed all three points to have a chance. When time was called in Game 2, my chances of earning my invite at this Regional were effectively reduced to zero. While I could have simply conceded the match before the end of Game 2 and given Aaron a shot at getting his invite, I wouldn't allow myself to scoop. There are three reasons for this.

1) Pride. I'd rather say that I went 5-3-1 than say I went 5-4.

2) My opponents. Sure, I could scoop and help my last-round opponent get more points, or I could play as hard as I could and possibly win, which would benefit anyone I played against today by improving my win percentage and as a result, all my opponent's tie breakers.

3) Appearances. Quite simply, one person scooping to another in this instance will make any Head Judge take a second look at the situation. It doesn't matter if the intentions are there or not, the simple act of handing someone else a win, even if nothing is exchanged for it, looks suspicious. As such, I won't do it. If my opponent beats me he beats me. But I'm certainly not going to just give away the win. I'm aware this will be an unpopular opinion, but it's my opinion.

A report is nothing unless one can learn from it. What did I learn from this tournament?

Need more answers to Crimson Blader.

I already have ideas cooking for this deck and how it can better handle Crimson Blader. You'll all see that in the next As a Player, whenever that is!

-Joe Frankino

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